An $8.5-billion proposal to build a new international terminal and add more gates and concourses to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is in the final stages of negotiation between city officials and airlines, the Chicago Tribune reported February 26, 2018.

The airport’s 35-year lease with the city is due to expire in May, helping to propel negotiations on an eight-year improvement plan for the airport, notorious for its frequent flight delays.

The project, slated for completion in 2026, would be paid for with higher fees on airlines and would include the demolition of the airport’s Terminal 2, which would be replaced by a new “Global Terminal.” The international terminal would be connected via newly constructed concourses to Terminals 1, 3, and 5, all of which would be extensively renovated.

When completed, the project would add 3.1 million square feet of new terminal space to O’Hare, which currently encompasses about 4.3 million square feet. The total number of gates at the airport would rise from 185 to 220.

Officials note that while O’Hare is crowded with domestic and regional traffic, it lags far behind airports in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles when it comes to international flights. LAX also recently passes O’Hare to become the second-busiest airport in the U.S.

“When you look at the international numbers, you say, ‘Wait a minute. We have half the international passengers that Miami and LAX do? We have a third the number of JFK?’” said Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans. “We have more industry, more global trade, more imports from China than LA and Miami, why should Chicago be half? We’re at 10 or 11 million international passengers and they’re at 21 or 22 million. Really? Come on.”